Marwan Muhammad, divisive figure in France’s Muslim community, announces ‘Council of French Muslims’

Since he left the leadership board of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) in October 2017, Marwan Muhammad has accomplished a lot. When he isn’t giving training on “intellectual self-defense” to young activist associations throughout France, he’s learning carpentry. His tenure as Executive Director was marked by controversy–especially regarding anti-burkini municipal orders. With the announcement of the “council of Muslims”, his current respite could be short-lived.

At 39, Marwan Muhammad is a central, but also divisive, figure. Many Muslims are grateful to him for vigorously defending their image, which they consider tarnished by constant suspicions about religious radicalism and debates on secularism. His critics accuse him of encouraging mistrust between the Republic and its Muslims and of supporting political Islam.

CCIF Spokesperson (2010-2014) then Executive Director (2016-2017), he transformed the organization, which was formed in 2003 when the debate surrounding the veil in the public school raged. He benefited from the decision of the Council of State, challenged by the League of Human Rights and the CCIF, to suspend the anti-Burkini decree put into place by the mayor of Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), during the summer of 2016.

Although he has left the CCIF, he continues to make headlines. In February, he co-authored an op-ed entitled “For an Impartial and Fair Justice System” for Tariq Ramadan, who was indicted for rape. In April, he published an indignant response on Mediapart to the “Manifesto against the new anti-Semitism” which denounced the existence of a “Muslim anti-Semitism”, calling the text “racist.”

Today, it’s as an “ordinary Muslim” that he offers his organizer experience and extensive list of contacts to serve on behalf of the country’s Muslim community.

In a recent Le Monde op-ed, he wrote that: “It’s time to consult Muslims on how their religion is organized.” Observing that, “Presidents and governments come and go, but the fact remains: the way the State behaves towards its citizens of the Muslim faith remains stuck in another time, in another century.”

With the new Council, “For the first time, [Muslims] can discuss subjects that affect them: what are the themes that seem central to the organization of the Muslim faith? What are the structures and figures whose work they admire, and who can…participate in the work of re-building and organizing Muslim communities at the national level?”

He concludes, “Such an organization, endowed with the legitimacy of those it represents, will have an immense responsibility: to repair… years of a lack of understanding and, at times, rejection, [and] to respond to the concerns of our time and to demonstrate a reality that we live everyday: Muslims will never have to choose between their citizenship and their faith, because through what they embody and bring to our country, they have made Islam a French religion.”



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